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October 25, 2016

Building Social Studies Foundations in Preschool

Written By: Marissa Kozen
Building Social Studies Foundations in Preschool -

Building Social Studies Foundations in Preschool

One of the many opportunities for growth students face as they transition into the classroom includes the exposure to new social paradigms. To take full advantage of these growth opportunities, early learners need to have a strong foundational schema on the topics of school, family, and community.  Teaching students how they fit into these social constructs develops their understanding of themselves as scholars, family members, and citizens of the world around them.  The social studies curriculum is a perfect opportunity to begin this this journey, and the following thoughts are just a few ideas to set your students on the path to good citizenship as they prepare for a future of formal learning.


From the start, the social studies period is a time to learn about expectations and routines at school.  It is also a time to make friends and learn about each other.  A timeless activity to go along with teaching the school materials, expectations, routines, and behaviors is to create classroom books about school.  In addition to making classroom books, teachers can provide an assortment of informational and literary texts that complement the books the class is making.  All these books can go in the classroom library in a tub labeled “School”. While classroom books can be focused on many topics, one example is making an “Our Class Book”.


Materials Needed:

  • Literary texts and informational text about school
  • Binding machine or 3 whole punch
  • Laminator
  • Paper
  • Photographs of students
  • Student names written on sentence strips
  • Word Wall



1 Start the activity with students in a circle and have each student share their name, how many letters their name has, and what letter it begins with. Names and pictures can be added to a pocket chart that will eventually be added to the Word Wall.

2. After all names have been shared and added the teacher can facilitate a classroom discussion about how names are alike, how they are different, and how important it is that we learn the names in the class if we are all going be friends cooperating and playing together.

3. At the end of the session explain to students that they will be making an Our Class Book that will include each student in the class. The teacher can give each student a paper with a blank drawing area and a sentence starter for completion.  The sentence starter can be as simple as, “Hello, my name is _________.”   Students can also draw a picture of themselves in the adjacent.

4. The teacher can collect and alphabetize work. Photographs can also be added to each page, depending on the page layout and teacher’s preference.

5. The teacher can help the students create a fun front and back cover that is laminated.

6. The teacher can then bind the book through one of many ways, including a book binding machine, stapler, or three whole punches with loose-leaf rings. Whichever method is most easily available is fine.

7. Place the published book into the classroom library for students to enjoy reading.


Other book ideas to consider adding to the “School” tub:  Our School Day, My Day, Classroom Supplies, Centers We Love, How I Am Feeling Today, and Important People In Our School.

Students will love to read these books over and over to each other because they took part in making them!



As students develop their responsibilities in their classroom, the teacher can expand and build learning to include responsibilities students have in their family unit.  Once again the teacher needs to provide resources to students about different types of families.  These resources may include multicultural teaching aids including pictures of different types of families to put on the board during lessons, centers devoted to puzzles and dolls with different types of families for students to explore, and books about multicultural families to read as a group and independently.  Some great book examples include, Too Many Tamales, Be Bim Bop, A Chair For My Mother, and Chicken Sunday.

Students should have rich and engaging discourse centered on these resources.  Through use of a T-chart or Venn diagram, students can diagram family similarities and differences.  There should also be discussion about family roles and traditions.  After exploring families for a couple of weeks through resources, centers, play, and both informational and literary books, students and their families can work on a home project that can be shared with class.


Materials Needed:

  • One large poster board per child
  • Example poster board for reference by the class



1 The teacher can create a poster of their own family to provide students and families with an example. The poster should have two sides.

2. The front side of the poster should be titled “My Family and Their Helping Hands”. The teacher should have everyone in his/her family trace his or her hands onto the poster in a random pattern.  After the hands are traced each family member should complete the following sentence, “My hands help _____________”.  The blank should focus on a particular task each family member completes with the teacher, such as make dinner, put away my toys, care for my baby sister, etc. This can be done in marker, colored pencils, or crayons to add pizazz.

3. On the back side of the poster, the teacher should find a way to divide the space into quarters and write about his/her family including pictures about tradition, favorite foods, home life, and things they do together.

4. The teacher should present his/her poster to the classroom and explain the project. The teacher should also write a home communication letter explaining the project, providing example pictures, and when it is due.  Interpreters can be used to make sure that each student has a copy in their home language.

5. Once projects are collected, students can have a chance to present their posters to the class over the course of a week. After all projects are presented students can reflect on how families are the same and how they are different.

6. The teacher can also incorporate a celebration time for families. The celebration would be a time where all families are invited to come in and gallery walk to see the projects.  This can also be a time where families bring in a special food or tradition to share with the class.



When teaching students community in social studies, teachers can have centers with community dress up including common occupations within the community, vocabulary cards, and books about local communities.  The teacher can also set up a community store/market and kitchen where students can purchase foods and then pretend to cook food for each other.  A great literacy lesson and center can be focused on the book, The Little Red Hen, incorporating examples of the places she visits and tasks she completes within the community.


Materials Needed:

  • Little Red Hen Storybook
  • Little Red Hen Felt Storyboard
  • Little Red Hen Puppets
  • Vocabulary Cards for plant, harvest, market, food, eat, etc.


1 Explain to students that we have basic needs and ask students to brainstorm what some of these basic needs might be. With support students, should mention the need for food.

2. The teacher should then explain, with vocabulary cards, the sequence or steps that it takes to meet needs. First, there is a “plant”, then it is “harvested”, next it might go to the “market”, and last it is “eaten”.

3. Read the book The Little Red Hen several times in different ways using the storybook, felt storyboard, and puppets, emphasizing the steps it takes The Little Red Hen to make the food to feed her family.

4. Ask the students retell to the text using sentence starters, first, then, next, and last, to re-create the correct sequence of events.

5. Engage the students in questions about the story in the context of similarities and differences within the community and extrapolate that discussion to the student’s own community. Sample questions might include:

  • How was the Little Red Hen different from the other animals?
  • What will the other animals do differently?
  • How did the Little Red Hen help her community?
  • Why is it important for the Little Red Hen to help the community and her family?
  • Why do we go to the market?
  • What do we get at the market?
  • Who helps us in our community to get the things we need?
  • How do you help in your community?
  • What are some ways you can be a good citizen in your community and country?


Social studies lessons are the perfect time to start building an understanding the importance of school, family, and community are.  Creating fun lessons, learning centers, and projects for students that have home and literacy connections really get students involved in social studies learning throughout the whole day.  What resources can you add to build your students understanding of school, family, and community?

Building Social Studies Foundations in Preschool -
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